H-1B visa quota remains open

In contrast to recent years, the current cap on H-1B visas – temporary U.S visas for those in specialty occupations, such as computer programmers — has yet to reach its limit.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there were 53,800 petitions for the visas approved as of Oct. 30 for the 2010 fiscal year — far below the 65,000 national limit.

According to Tom Hildreth, of Manchester-based McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, where he founded the Immigration Law Practice Group, “the general state of the economy is certainly 90 percent of the reason why filings are down.”

Likewise, the complex program can be frustrating for employers who have to wait to see if a petition is granted before they can hire a foreign-born worker, he said.

“Employers have also gotten a little disillusioned with the roulette-wheel game,” said Hildreth. “They have found work-arounds and alternatives instead of filing an H-1B visa petition.”

There also is a significant cost involved – a cost that, for businesses watching every penny, can be cost-prohibitive.

“Filing fees are somewhere north of $1,500 and legal fees can run between $2,000 and $5,000,” said Hildreth. “Sometimes the filing fees are also on top of a recruiter’s fees.”

While the federal immigration agency does not track H-1B visas by state — the state of New Hampshire has no information either — information obtained by NHBR from the U.S. Foreign Labor Data Certification Center’s Online Wage Library shows that 292 H-1B visas were certified for Granite State companies for fiscal year 2008, the most current data available.

In that year, the visa quota was filled up within a week. – CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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